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The ever growing myth of “Big Body Presence”



I don't know when this cliche was birthed (probably Pierre McGuire dreamed it up in the bath one day and began hammering it home on air every chance he got), but it's time it was euthanized. Having a "big body" is neither necessary nor sufficient to be good in the NHL. Players aren't effective merely by dint of being large. They are obviously ways being bigger can be potentially advantageous to certain players in certain situations, but being big doesn't replace (nor equal) being good.

The supposed benefits of big body presence have grown beyond what I would deem reasonably intuitive. We’ve gone from “difficult to push off the puck” and “possess a long reach” to “he has an undeniable net presence!”, “he’ll make room for his linemates” and my favorite variant, featured in a fanshot below, “defensemen will be forced to focus on him more!” – as if a bigger guys’ girth has a sort of irresistible gravitational pull. Hockey is obviously a tough sport; an impact sport. It makes sense that size would have some value. But “BBP” has become a magical catchall asset that overcomes or excuses other, rather pertinent failings. Olli Jokinen can’t win a face-off, is not very good in his own zone, has mediocre vision and puck distribution skills, yet he’s a legit #1 center and Iginla is going to have a career season beside him because, well…big body presence.

The guy pictured above is Evgeny Artyukhin. He’s a 26 year old Russian winger. And, at 6’5″ and 255 pounds, he’s huge. What’s more, his scouting reports claim that he has good mobility for a big man and soft hands. The funny thing is, he stinks. His career high in goals is 6. His career high in points is 17. He played some of the weakest competition on the Lightning last year (-0.07), had a negative corsi rate (-10.1) and scored at a 4th liners pace (1.16 ESP).

I haven’t watched enough of Artyukin to comment personally, but from what I can glean from Lightning fans, the big guy is bad because he’s dumb as a worn-out boot – can’t think the game fast enough to be worthwhile beyond the edge of the roster. His size is, at best, a tease – it doesn’t grant him automatic net presence resulting in more goals on the power play and it doesn’t make opposition defenders stick to him like a magnet. Size is perhaps best described as a tool that can be used or not – one (even when employed) that cannot overcome other glaring faults. Nor is it required to be an effective hockey player (or center, for that matter). See: Daymond Langkow, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Sidney Crosby…the list goes on.

After being sold this particular marketing slogan last year after Todd Bertuzzi was signed (and his subsequent stinking despite BBP!) I am hereby immune from the seductive promises of endless open ice for linemates, constantly screened goalies and forever over-matched defenseman.

by Kent Wilson